A map of trees supplied by aerial mapping company Bluesky is playing an important role in an innovative project to reduce flooding, using natural flood management techniques, around the Spains Hall Estate in Essex. Working alongside engineering company Atkins, the Environment Agency, Essex and Suffolk River Trust and Essex Wildlife Trust, the Estate is looking to protect properties at risk of flooding, improve 18 hectares of habitat and restore two natural water courses. The area is upstream of the ‘picture postcard’ village of Finchingfield that has historically suffered from the effects of flooding, most recently in 2014.
The ‘Slow the Flow’ project aims to use natural flood management techniques, such as the installation of leaky dams, the use of and the re-instigation of old water meadows, to reduce flooding. The map of trees is an extract from the Bluesky National Tree Map; a nationwide database detailing the location, height and canopy cover of over 300 million trees. The Bluesky data will be will be used to record baseline levels of canopy cover and monitor change across the Estate.
As part of the project, a pair of Eurasian Beavers were released into an enclosure on Finchingfield Brook in March 2019. It is hoped the two beavers will build dams within the woodland to hold back floodwaters, clean it, and release it slowly again during times of drought. Their ponds will also provide new habitats for a variety of wildlife, including frogs, snails, dragonflies and ducks.
Using data from Bluesky’s National Tree Map it is hoped the project partners can monitor the effects of the beavers on the habitat and woodland. Part of an innovative digital environment partnership project co-ordinated by Atkins the project is using crowd-sourced data, information, skills and time and will explore the use of geographic information, such as the Bluesky Tree Map data. The proof of concept project, including the data partnership approach, will also form the basis of an MSc study later this year.
Dr David Gasca, Principal Hydrologist within the Water Management Consultancy division of Atkins and technical lead on the project, commented, “I had worked with Bluesky on other projects so was aware of the innovation and quality of their data. I was therefore keen to apply the National Tree Map data to this project. When approached Bluesky could not have been more helpful providing data already created and offering to work with us throughout the long term duration of the project.”